Anonymous donor to match up to $1.5M in donations for Y.O.U.’s Joan’s Place in London, Ont.

youth opportunities unlimited joan's place young mothers homelessness youth
A rendering of the building at Richmond and York streets. via Youth Opportunities Unlimited

On Giving Tuesday, a global movement meant to encourage generosity, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.) in London, Ont., has announced that an anonymous donor has committed to matching $1.5 million in donations for its Joan’s Place campaign.

Fundraising for Joan’s Place, which will support youth, young mothers and mothers-to-be who are either experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, began in summer 2019. The anonymous matching donation marks the beginning of the final campaign push with Y.O.U. hoping to begin construction “as soon as possible” in 2022.

The centre will provide a wraparound model of care “to provide housing and a range of wellness supports, including primary care and mental health support, addiction services, education, employment and training.”

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The physical space, at 329, 331 and 333 Richmond St., will be made up of 39 affordable housing units (priced at a maximum of 65 per cent of the median market rent) and a Youth Wellness Hub. It’s expected to serve 200 people daily, according to Y.O.U.

“At Y.O.U., we believe that it takes more than a roof or affordable rent to change a life,” said executive director Steve Cordes.

“We combine a housing-first model with critical youth supports and skill development opportunities with the aim of helping young people escape the cycle of homelessness while creating new futures for themselves and their young families.”

Y.O.U. says that youth make up 26 per cent of the homeless population in London-Middlesex and that its youth shelter at Clarke Road and Oxford Street, which opened in August 2020, “is routinely at 100 per cent occupancy.” Additionally, “London’s teen pregnancy rate is 24.5 in 1,000 youth age 15-19, amplifying the need for affordable, accessible, safe housing and access to key services,” Y.O.U. adds.

The centre will be named in honour of former London city councillor and Ontario’s first female Solicitor General, Joan Smith — a “trailblazer for women and a tireless champion of the underdog” — by her family. The Smith family previously donated $1 million towards the project.

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